Discussion #3: Exploring an ecosystem or multi-species approach



British Columbia has an incredibly diverse landscape, ranging from lush coastal rainforests, dry interior grasslands, globally unique inland rainforests, boreal forests and coastal estuaries. B.C.’s diverse ecosystems are home to tens of thousands of species – many of which have yet to be discovered.

Decades of human influence, a changing climate, and shifts in natural systems have led to many species becoming at-risk.  Each of these species plays a role in the ecosystem in which they exist.  In many cases their roles are not yet fully understood.

Each species relies on healthy ecosystems for their survival – for their homes, food and security. When a species disappears, it can impact the functioning of the whole ecosystem. There is no way to know the impacts ahead of time.

We have heard, through our previous engagements, there is interest in using an ecosystem-based approach to protecting and recovering species at risk. An ecosystem-based approach can be complex, and can mean different things to different people. For some people, it may mean protecting entire ecosystems, such as sagebrush steppe ecosystems in the Okanagan or Garry Oak meadows on southern Vancouver Island. For others, it refers to protecting broad ranges of habitat for keystone species that may capture the needs of many other species.

One of the most common sentiments we hear for using an ecosystem-based approach to protecting species at risk is that it could allow for the protection of species that are not yet known. We’ve also heard this type of approach could provide protection for other species before they become at risk. These are potential strengths.

On the flip side, we hear that an ecosystem approach may not provide effective protection to some species, and focusing on an ecosystem, or a group of species, may not adequately address the needs of individual species. Likewise, we hear that an ecosystem approach may not be appropriate in all circumstances. Others see the inclusion of an ecosystem-based approach as outside the scope of species-at-risk legislation.

We do know that B.C. has a large number of species at risk, and focusing our efforts species-by-species will be challenging, both in terms of our ability to carry out recovery actions and in accounting for all species in all circumstances. In some cases a species-based approach will be the best approach, in others an ecosystem-based approach could be possible.

At this stage of policy development we hope to hear from you on:

  • What do you see as the goal of an ecosystem-based or multi-species approach to protecting species at risk?
  • What concerns do you have around an ecosystem-based or multi-species approach to protecting and recovering species at risk?

Sort

18 responses to “Discussion #3: Exploring an ecosystem or multi-species approach

    User avatar
    [-] Scott

    We see the ecosystem approach to be the most viable for effecting the most good for the broadest number of species. It must be included within the scope of species-at-risk legislation. Every species needs food and a place to live to survive, so it only makes sense to focus on the ecosystem as a whole. No one species is more or less important than the next one.

    0
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Amy

    Listing of species-at-risk can and should happen on an individual basis, but management at the recovery planning stage can happen on an ecosystem basis. If only an ecosystem approach is taken, there is a risk that individual species will still be lost. I support protecting entire old growth forests in conjunction with protecting individual species – not just one, or the other.

    0
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Matthew

    I believe that one of the most effective measures to protect species at risk in BC is to reduce threats they face where they occur on provincial crown lands. If we fail to protect crown land occurrences, what sort of example are we setting for private landholders? One could argue that current legislation and regulations protect species at risk from human activities but in many cases the most serious threats come from invasive species, which must be controlled if populations of species at risk are to persist. In particular, I am concerned about the decline of species at risk on lands managed under the Lands Act, where invasive species management activities seem most deficient.

    0
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Sinead

    The goal of a multi-species approach to protecting species at risk would be to recognize that ecosystems are comprised interconnected and interdependent species, and to ensure survival a landscape-level approach to protection is absolutely necessary. Protection of old-growth forests and other at-risk, high biodiversity ecosystem types should act as a base layer for species protection in the province. This sort of practice would duly reflect current traditional, Indigenous knowledge and scientific findings of our ecological realities in BC. Industrial expansion in BC forests if no longer tenable; expansion of forest and species protection is really the only way forward in our carbon constrained world dealing with very serious biodiversity loss.

    2
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Helen

    I understand the appeal of using an ecosystem- or multi-species based approach because it will make the application of any legislation more tenable because you will be working with a whole suite of organisms at once. However, the challenge with ecosystem-based approaches is that setting defined and measurable outcomes or targets are difficult and thus it is difficult (or impossible) to evaluate if the conservation is achieving the desired long-term objective. I think it is hard enough with a single-species approach to realize these processes, let alone something as nebulous as an “ecosystem”.

    1
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Kristen

    We need to be proactive, not reactive. There is a time lag for species to react to change so by the time many are at risk there will already be a number of issues to address. Remove or address the causes of species decline in order to reverse further declines occurring. Use the cumulative effects assessment, determine areas of each ecozones and ecoregions that don’t have any protection and make a change. This will allow for BC to have different sorts of habitats protected for a number of different species, hopefully leading to fewer species becoming at risk. We also need to protect all remaining habitat for endangered species.

    0
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Cathy

    Spraying glyphosate broadcast from helicopters is common practice in BC for various reasons, notably in forestry where it is used by corporations to attempt to hurry the ‘free-to-grow status of planted blocks so said corporations may remove the block from their inventory. This practice kills off forage for all species. This kill-off lasts for years and destroys wetlands, kills fish, devastates large areas for many years and in many cases doesn’t speed growth of the commercial species, usually pine. Merely desisting from this and using more intelligent forest practices will help all species, particularly some of the recognized species at risk. Very multi-species approach.

    0
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Rachel

    In my opinion, an ecosystem-based or multi-species approach requires a change in conservation philosophy in BC. While resource extraction in a major component of both jobs and income provincially, ecosystem-services must be better accounted for in resource decision making.

    We know that the leading cause of species decline in BC is habitat loss. Therefore, all remaining habitat needs protecting for endangered species. Forestry has had a major impact on the landscape throughout BC, resulting in the loss of vast areas of old growth forest. These forests are critical habitat for several endangered species and must be protected as a bottom line.

    Lastly, the recovery of species means that the cause(s) of decline must be reversed. Conservation efforts are lost if the causes of species decline are not addressed now and longterm.

    1
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Cathy

    To begin with, we need to stop inflicting damage on our environment. We need to stop spraying glyphosate in forestry and not allow other entities such as BC Hydro and CN Rail to spray herbicides for brush clearing. That would be my idea of an ecostystem-based and multi-species approach.

    0
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Jody

    I think all conservation efforts, both for species at risk and in general, should be ecosystem-based because all ecosystems have been developed over time by the interactions of the species that have existed in those ecosystems. The healthiest and most productive ecosystems are the ones that have significant diversity and have not been disturbed or polluted by natural or unnatural processes.

    0
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] North

    In general, we favour the ‘ecosystem approach’ but recognize that for some species a ‘by species’ approach might be the best option. The ecosystem approach could protect other areas where a species at risk has not yet been identified.
    We suggest that the rationale for choosing ecosystem protection or species protection be made available to the public.
    Marine ecosystems must be considered with the same weight and forethought that terrestrial ecosystems are given.
    More consideration needs to be given to external factors, such as pollution, and climate change in the conservation of species at risk and in any recovery program.
    Connectivity corridors and migration corridors need to be identified and considered in all evaluation plans and recovery programs.
    We need to work towards our stated national goals of setting aside protected natural areas through parks by year 2020.

    3
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Alison

    I believe protecting large areas of natural ecosystem is KEY to protecting species at risk. Those areas have to be large enough to deal with natural migrations of species like cariboo, and need to be large enough to provide enough food for species which have a specialized diet.

    This approach should be augmented with emergency measures for those species whose local population has become so small that they are on the verge of extinction or whose gene pool has become too small. Emergency measures could include fenced off areas where species are protected from predators and extra food is provided by humans. Like this one: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/indigenous-groups-lead-project-to-save-endangered-selkirk-caribou/article37509899/

    2
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Leon

    I think the ecosystem-based approach is the the best one but it should be mated with a species based focus on animals that are in gravest danger of extinction. The species specific concerns must be addressed early enough that pulling that group back from the brink is still possible.

    That means that the ecosystems that are protected must be monitored and studied. The species at greatest risk need special focus and when predetermined criteria are reported on, then emergency supports must be brought in to rescue the species.

    The legislation needs the power to incur closures and cancel permits for resource extraction. It needs to survive less progressive & understanding governments. And the system in place to carry out the directives in the law and the scientific plans for recovery, needs funding that is sufficient and constant.

    5
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Tamara

    The goal of an ecosystem based or multi-species approach is my preferred option because it recognizes the importance of protecting habitat from human encroachment and disturbance – especially as a result of resource extraction. All species in a functioning ecosystem exist in a complex web of interdependence. Singling out certain plant or animal species for protection is simply not an effective method of long term conservation.

    2
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Justin

    I strongly believe an ecosystem mindset is important to protecting species at risk. A complex systems approach is needed to properly manage habitats throughout the province. Connectivity and migration corridors are extremely important and this should be a focus of all conservation efforts.

    3
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Ali

    – Current approach to conservation is focused on species at risk, but needs to include protection for species at risk AND ecosystems.
    – Focusing only on species at risk neglects the possibility that the land could be restored and species at risk could be re-introduced (for example re-introducing rare plants to a restored Garry Oak Ecosystem). We need to protect potential habitat for these species at risk, so there is the possibility of IMPROVING their conservation status, not just protecting the limited areas where they currently occur.
    – Taking an ecosystems approach may be more PROACTIVE as it could prevent the decline of currently stable species, by protecting their habitat before they become “at risk”. By protecting ecosystems, we can hopefully protect species interactions, many of which are not fully understood or documented by science.
    – With climate change, having a larger area of these ecosystems intact will be important for ecosystem and species RESILIENCE.

    3
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Lesley

    It’s all connected. Species don’t exist in isolation. However I don’t think we have to choose one over the other. Yes protect species at risk while safeguarding ecosystems and preventing their degradation.

    1
    0
    permalink
    User avatar
    [-] Richard

    Ecosystem-based approaches such as the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Program are really important in the mix of systems needed. There is a perception of time-saving and cost efficiency that may not exist, there is also a a dreamy notion that multi-species approaches can completely replace single-species approaches. That is not the case. While there may be some efficiencies in these very good coarse-filter projects, the single-species must not be forgotten in both the recovery planning and recovery action stages. Having said that, there ARE several recovery actions that can benefit multiple species associated with similar habitats, or which have overlapping niches. Examples would be any species of grassland birds, tree-cavity associated wildlife, benefitting from habitat enhancements, or multiple predator species benefitting from increased numbers of a keystone prey species. So both approaches are needed, and there should be capability for flexible opportunistic movement between the two approaches.

    4
    0
    permalink
Comments are closed.